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We examine the share of French men with stunted growth during the nineteenth century using data on potential army conscripts. The share of stunted men (those whose height was below 1.62 metres) in France’s 82 departments declined dramatically across the century, especially in the south and west. Our models examine the role of education expenditure, health care personnel, local wages, asset distribution, and a dummy variable for Paris as determinants of stunting, decomposing changes over time into the effects of levels and returns to the various explanatory variables used in the model of heights. All covariates are strongly significant, with education spending being particularly important. Our evidence clearly indicates that living in congested Paris contributed to poor health.